Speaking to God is a wonderful gift given to us by the Creator himself. Few things are so joyous praying to the Lord of the universe. How can we start?
Prayer is the primary means for communicating with God, and God has made us in such a way that we flourish when we speak with him. Judah Halevi, a Spanish Jewish philosopher, said, “Prayer is for the soul what nourishment is for the body.”1 Furthermore, prayer is a form of worship, and some would even say that it’s the highest form of worship. It also makes us unique compared to other creatures. We are the only ones with the intellectual and relational capability to talk to our Creator. God wants us to speak to him, and the method of prayer is less important than whether you do it at all. Prayer can be done by speaking aloud, silently, with a group, or alone. You can follow ancient recorded prayers or speak to God with words from the heart. You can pray standing up, or down on your knees. You can pray occasionally, but there is a good chance that the more you pray, the more often you will want to do it.
There are many ways you can pray, like pouring out your heart and soul to God as Hannah did in the Bible (1 Samuel 1:15). You can talk to God like you would talk with anyone else, because he knows your heart even when you don’t have the right words to say. Prayer includes asking questions and hearing answers, being afraid and finding help, being afflicted and sensing deliverance, seeking guidance and receiving counsel, experiencing pain and feeling healing, needing solace and being wrapped in comfort.2 He is a personal God, a friend you can turn to at all times.
At this point, you may be asking yourself, What am I supposed to pray for? Here are some suggestions. Praise God in your prayers for everything he has done for you. Even when your life seems so bad that it cannot get any better, there is always something to praise God for. For example, Rabbi Zusya of Hanipol prayed, “Thank you, O Lord, for making me blind, so that I might be able to see the inner light.”3 You can also pray to pass a calculus test, to receive the new job you applied for, or for your aunt to overcome her illness.
However, prayer is about more than just asking God to give you things. That is the beauty of prayer! Prayer is also how we ask for forgiveness when we do something that God does not approve of. If we pray for forgiveness based on what Jesus has done for us, God always gives the forgiveness we ask for. You may even try to pray at times and have no idea how to put words to what you are going through. This happens to all of us. Thankfully, Jesus addressed this very issue. In Matthew 6:8, he said to his disciples that our Father in heaven knows what we need before we even ask him. If you feel like you want to pray something, but don’t know what, “The Lord’s Prayer” is a great place to start. This is a prayer that Yeshua gave to all his followers, including us. Here is how it goes:
“Our Father in heaven, hallowed be your name.
Your kingdom come, your will be done,
on earth as it is in heaven.
Give us this day our daily bread,
and forgive us our debts,
as we also have forgiven our debtors.
And lead us not into temptation,
but deliver us from evil.”
(Matthew 6:9-13; cf. Luke 11:2-4)
In this simple prayer, Yeshua taught us everything we need to know about what to pray for. “Our Father in heaven, hallowed be your name,” is a short sentence praising God for who he is. “Your kingdom come, your will be done, on earth as it is in heaven,” is about us wanting God to usher in a kingdom where there is eternal peace and happiness. We also want his will to be done no matter what because God always has our best interests at heart. “Give us this day our daily bread,” is asking God to make sure that we are taken care of and our needs are covered. “Forgive us our debts, as we also have forgiven our debtors,” is Yeshua showing us how to ask God for forgiveness for what we have done to God, but also forgiving those that have wronged us. If God is willing to forgive us, even after we do bad things, we should be willing to forgive others. Last, “And lead us not into temptation, but deliver us from evil,” is asking God to help us resist sin and to be with us during hard times.4
The Lord’s Prayer is always relevant and is a great model for us to follow. The rest of the Bible also includes beautiful prayers to process and pray through. Prayers like King David’s (2 Samuel 7:18-19), Mary’s (Luke 1:46-55), and Moses’ (Exodus 15) teach us how to seek God. We could all learn from their examples!
So, now you know how to pray. Why not begin right now?
- Hayim H. Donin, To Pray as a Jew: A Guide to the Prayer Book and the Synagogue Service (New York: Basic Books, 2007, Introduction, Kindle.
- Wayne D. Dosick, Living Judaism: The Complete Guide to Jewish Belief, Tradition, and Practice (San Francisco: HarperOne, 2009), 229.
- Ibid., 237.
- This verse can also be translated, “deliver us from the evil one,” which would be a prayer to make us strong against Satan and to not fall under his control. See William D. Mounce, Basics of Biblical Greek Grammar (Grand Rapids: Zondervan, 2019), 79.